Arts & Pop Culture

THE DOs & DON’Ts of BODY POSITIVE ANTHEMS

by ALYSSA BERDIE

I have two questions: have you heard the new pop hit, “All About That Bass” by Meghan Trainor? I’m assuming the answer is yes. Next, have you heard the song “Body Love” by Mary Lambert? I’m assuming the answer is no. “All About That Bass,” is being labeled and praised as the body positive song our generation of young women has been needing by popular media. Unfortunately, this is so false.

Thelonia Saunders / Art Editor

Thelonia Saunders / Art Editor

If you break down the lyrics of the song, you will find the many flaws that are being heard all over America (and I’m sure elsewhere). Lyrics such as: “Cause I got that boom boom that all the boys chase” and “Yeah, my mama she told me don’t worry about your size. She says boys like a little more booty to hold at night.” These lyrics continue to perpetuate the societal notation that women’s bodies are acceptable only under the standards of what men like. Therefore, male acceptance is crucial to a female’s self-worth and body image. Additionally, Trainor isn’t “fat” or even above a size that isn’t still considered sexually attractive by popular culture. This isn’t the body positive anthem for the women who are a size eight and above. It’s an anthem for the women who aren’t a size two or four, but are simply above the impossible standard of what is constantly seen Photoshop-ed in magazines. It’s for the women who have big boobs and a big ass, or in Trainor’s words, “…all the right junk in all the right places.” So what seems like a body positive message is actually an extremely exclusionary song for a very specific woman. No flat-assed size sixess or small breasted size twelves. And of course, even if you do fit the Trainor standard, if a man isn’t chasing you then her statements no longer apply to you.

Let’s not forget the most problematic lyrics in the song: “I’m bringing booty back. Go ahead and tell them skinny bitches that. No, I’m just playing. I know you think you’re fat but I’m here to tell ya every inch of you is perfect from the bottom to the top.” First of all, Trainor is not “bringing booty back,” just like Iggy Azalea and Miley Cyrus didn’t usher in an “era of big booty” (why Vogue, why!?), big booties have always been here. Big butts, as Kara Brown of Jezebel perfectly states, are a “trait that has been present and celebrated in black and Latino communities in America since basically forever.” Trainor isn’t bringing booty back because it’s been here for decades, and she is only aiding the new white-washed “Big Booty Era” that completely excludes women of color. Secondly, I find it disappointing that Trainor would choose the word “bitches” as opposed to, I don’t know … any other word. This is completely counter-productive. As women we need to take a stand against the words that have long been used to demean us — words like “slut,” “whore” and “bitch” and stop using them against other women. The more we use it against each other the more okay it is for men to use it against us as well.

Trainor made a statement in an interview with Billboard in regards to “skinny bitches,” saying it was a “simple joke,” and in the end she was acknowledging the struggle skinny women have as well.  Though I’m glad to hear she wasn’t intentionally skinny-shaming, as blogger Jenny Trout says, “Saying what you really think, followed by ‘just kidding,’ is the most passive aggressive move on the planet… it’s a chance for the speaker to say whatever they want while forcing the target of the insult to accept what’s being said in good humor.” If you are writing a song to empower and spread body-positivity to all women then there is no reason to call out a group and put them down. Simply, Trainor insults literally all women in just two lines of her song.

Songs like Trainor’s “All About That Bass” give young women and girls the wrong idea of what it is to love your body. Heteronormative and misogynist messages wrapped in pastel music videos and catchy pop beats is not what we need in our already heteronormative and misogynist filled media. Like me, you might want to say, “Well at least songs like this are starting a dialogue of what is really feminist and body positive.” However, what we need to realize is that there are songs and other media attached to amazing artists that are actually about body positivity for all women (and even men). These songs send powerful feminist messages that should be flooding our popular culture, but of course these songs don’t make it to the mainstream.

If you’re unaware of who Mary Lambert is she is the featuring artist on Macklemore’s “Same Love.” Though I’m sure you forgot about her after Macklemore became the straight savior for all gay people (thank you Macklemore, I can finally be myself because you said so!). A fun fact about Lambert is that she is actually gay. Lambert is a 25 year-old singer-songwriter, spoken-word poet, gay rights activists and feminist goddess from Seattle, Washington. Lambert does not fit into the impossible media standards or Trainor standards for women and has been a voice for plus sized women for years. Her latest EP “Welcome to the Age of My Body,” features incredibly powerful, inclusive body positive songs. Though you can argue that “Body Love” may only target the size eight-plus woman, that’s okay and very different from the exclusionary message in “All About That Bass.” Lambert doesn’t attack, or even mention skinny women. She isn’t putting anyone down for the body they have. She is simply singing to and for the women whose bodies have been continually ridiculed and even hated in our popular culture.

If you’re still not convinced, here’s a peek:

You are worth more than who you fuck
You are worth more than a waistline
You are worth more than beer bottles displayed like drunken artifacts.
You are worth more than any naked body could proclaim in the shadows,
More than a man’s whim or your father’s mistake
You are no less valuable as a size 16 than a size 4
You are no less valuable as a 32a than a 36c
Your sexiness is defined by concentric circles within your wood
It is wisdom
You are a goddamn tree stump with leaves sprouting out
Reborn

So why isn’t Lambert in our popular culture? Why is “Body Love” not the song you hear on the radio 40 times a day? Perhaps it’s because artists like Mary Lambert and her song “Body Love” is going against the heteronormative, misogynist popular beliefs that surround our popular culture. Possibly it’s because the music itself isn’t being made to have a catchy beat, and lyrics that play on repeat in your head, instead her music is made to have a message. Mary Lambert, herself, is a queer, tattooed, plus-sized woman preaching for women to love themselves, no matter what mold they fit into. And that is just too much for pop-culture to swallow. It’s not cute enough. It’s not skinny enough. But it could be what changes our popular culture. It could be what saves many young women from depression and even suicide. So if you want to hear an insanely powerful song with a strong body positive message, try “Body Love.”

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